Thursday, May 17, 2012

Yoga and the Art of Motorcycling

No, a top bun does not protect against injury.
Good karma on the other hand...
I just returned from my final motorcycle road test, and having successfully passed, felt the need to share. I'm travelling a lot between our home in the sticks and my yoga studio about 20km away, so the bike will really help in keeping fuel expenses down. Over the past few months of learning how to ride, it's really become clear to me just how much yoga has helped. I've been a cyclist forever — and that does provide some crossover skills — but in terms of handling and overall comfort on the motorbike, I'd say that yoga has really prepared me the most.

When you're riding on the bike — at least my little 250cc Sherpa — the most comfortable position is pretty much Utkatasana, especially if you've practised it Bikram-style with your arms forward:

Bikram's version of Utkatasana,
or as they call it "awkward pose".
Perfect riding posture.
I find it really nice to be able to tilt my pelvis up and hinge at the hips when I'm going faster, keeping my torso stretched over the gas tank, calling on those Paschimottanasana skills.

Keep Calm, Motor On
Talk to any motorcycle instructor and they'll tell you one of the best ways to stay safe on the bike is to remain calm and relaxed while riding. Yoga really helps with this, as you're practising the concept of Sukha and Sthira, or balance between comfort and steadiness constantly. This is exactly the state you want to be in on the motorbike — grounded and secure on the pegs with your legs hugging the tank, but with a relaxed hand grip and posture.

A key to staying calm and relaxed on the bike is remembering to breathe. The breath is the focus in Ashtanga yoga, so I've got this down, and I really noticed today how relaxed I was even with the test car tailing me and the tester giving me instructions through an earpiece. At one point she joked, "Don't forget to breathe!", and I thought "I'm way ahead of you honey...I practice breathing."

Another key element of safe riding is being able to maintain focus — even when you're presented with a long winding seaside road, beautiful vistas on either side, eagles flying overhead, baby sheep frolicking in the meadows and horse riders trotting along the shoulder. Just as we keep bringing the mind back to the breath in yoga and meditation when we're distracted, the same goes for riding. Only the stakes are way higher. In yoga you might miss that transition, but if you miss a corner or that barn cat darting across the road while you're on a motorbike...

Keep the rubber on the road and under your toes.



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